It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to any parents. But a new report from market research firm Childwise shows that children aged five to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours in front of a screen – over double the amount in 1995.
Again perhaps not surprisingly teenage boys spend the longest in front of a screen, averaging eight hours per day. The Childwise report, called Connected Kids, shows that eight-year-old girls spent the least time in front of a screen, though that’s still 3.5 hours a day, according to the study.
Screen time is made up of time spent watching TV, playing games consoles, using a mobile, computer or tablet – often at the same time!
Produced each year, the Connected Kids report surveys around 2,000 children, aged five to 16. It finds that teenage girls now spend an average of seven-and-a-half- hours watching screens, compared with 3.5 hours of TV viewing in 1995.
Younger children fare slightly better – in 1995, five to 10-year-olds averaged around 2.5 hours of TV.
Children are also now multi-screening much more – using more than one device at the same time ie. surfing the internet on a tablet at the same time as watching TV.
Says research executive Matthew Nevard.”The main difference from the 1990s is that then TV and magazines were the main ways for connecting kids to the media and now they have different devices from tablets, mobiles, games consoles and they have a much higher screen time.”
Children’s TV viewing habits have changed dramatically, with the majority now watching television via catch-up services and YouTube rather than the traditional TV set, according to the report. YouTube is the most popular on-demand service with more than half of respondents accessing TV and video via the site since 2013 while Facebook has seen its appeal dip in recent years, as children turn to newer services such as Snapchat.
Children enjoy the privacy of WhatsApp and Snapchat, according to the survey, and the use of such services is also changing how they communicate.
“It reflects the image culture which has emerged, where pictures are utilised to give a better representation of current moods and or activities,” the survey said. Google is one of the few sites that still remains popular.
Paid-for on-demand services, such as Netflix, have also risen rapidly in recent years and are expected to continue to grow in popularity while the popularity of the terrestrial channels has fallen. BBC One and the ITV channels have seen their audience of seven to 16-year-olds drop from over 80% in 1995 to just over 40% in 2014.
The transition to digital, coupled with dedicated children’s channels, is another reason for the the drop in children’s viewing of the main channels with children now watching more content on dedicated channels such as CBBC, CITV, Nickelodeon and Disney.
The report also attempts a bit of future-gazing and predicts that in the next ten years, children growing up will have little understanding of a world without the internet. In particular, it thinks that most children will have some form of wearable technology, such as a smart watch, smart glasses or a virtual reality headset.